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New technology may reduce TSA pat-down searches

May 27, 2012|By Hugo Martin
  • New technology could reduce how often TSA officers performs pat-down searches.
New technology could reduce how often TSA officers performs pat-down searches. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

The federal government says it has plans to use advance technology to dramatically reduce the number of pat-down searches performed in the nation’s airports.

The Department of Homeland Security recently put out a request for technology companies to come up with a hand-held scanning device that can be used instead of pat-down searches on passengers who set off alarms on full-body scanners.

The department oversees the Transportation Security Administration, which operates about 700 full-body scanners at 180 airports across the country. When the scanners detect a hidden object, TSA workers perform a pat-down search.

But critics say TSA screeners rely on the pat-down search too often. Even former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger got a full-body pat-down at New York’s La Guardia Airport recently.

In a government document, the Department of Homeland Security said it is looking for a hand-held device that weighs less than 5 pounds and can determine if a hidden object on a passenger is a weapon or explosive. The device should produce a result in less than 15 seconds, the TSA request said.

"If possible, the goal is to detect all threats including metal and explosives," according to the request.

Plan approval and testing is likely to take at least a year. The request did not say how soon the device might show up at airports.

"TSA is continually seeking ways to enhance the safety and security of travelers in ways that will minimize inconveniences," TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said.

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